Tuesday, February 24, 2009

get out the map

My life has become much easier since the concept of GPS has been introduced to my life. I'm not quite sure how I really got much of anywhere before I had a little computerized person in my car telling me where and when to turn. Especially since moving up here closer to the Twin Cities, where I'm often required to drive into Minneapolis or the suburbs for various synod events and committee meetings. I jokingly tell people that if it weren't for my GPS I would probably still be driving around trying to find my way home.

But, because of my GPS system, I now have a nice, British woman guiding me to my destination. She tells me where to turn, and even alerts me when my next turn is coming up. If, for some reason, I am unable to turn when she tells me, or take the exit off of the highway that she wanted me to, she'll quickly figure out a different route. It has been pretty great to have that service at my finger tips.

Sometimes I wish that God would give me a GPS for my life. It would be there to guide me, tell me what decisions to make, which way to go. I wouldn't have to worry about what to do and when to do it, because the GPS (Godly Positioning System) would tell me. I wouldn't have to wonder and worry if I'm lost, if I'm somehow not on the path intended for me, or that I might have made a wrong turn back there at Albequerque.

It would make life's decisions pretty easy, I think. There'd be no risk. I'd always know, for certain, that I was on the right road because there would be that nice, British voice telling me so.

But, when I think about it, maybe that's not such a good thing. Sometimes the joy of driving is just seeing where you end up. There is adventure in trying to find a place on your own. And one thing I've noticed is that if I rely on my GPS to give me turn by turn directions, I often don't pay as close attention as I should to where I'm going, and I miss street names and landmarks that could help me figure out how I got there in the first place.

So, maybe we're not given a GPS from God because the destination isn't what's important. It's the journey there that is.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

external motivation

I have found that, if I want to motivate the young people to do things, I need to offer them some sort of incentive. They like to know that they are getting something out of the deal.

One thing I've also found is that, when looking for ideas for motivation, allowing the youth to do something mean to me works really well. For instance, for one of our activities where we are raising money for world hunger, I have said that if we make it past a certain amount, I will shave my head. And not only that, but the youth that is the biggest individual fund raiser gets to be the one to use the clippers on my head. I am not sure if they will reach the goal, but many of them are determined to do it.

As a part of our Confirmation program, sermon notes have been something that have been hard to get our young people excited about. For some reason, filling out a worksheet about the worship service is not at the top of many of their priority lists. So I've tried to find ways to make them more exciting or appealing.

Well, I've come up with an idea. And it does seem to be motivating many of the kids. This year we've started requiring our 5th and 6th graders to take sermon notes, though not as many as our Confirmation kids, but the reward is the same for them. And today we had our first young person reach the goal amount of sermon notes. It happened to be a 6th grader. Everyone was excited to see the reward. There were camera phones galore to document the event. I had even given my camera to one of the kids, and she snapped some good pictures. So, I thought I'd share one so you could see what the reward was.

Here it is:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

a picture is worth a thousand words

My church is beginning to get ready for a new pictorial directory. We've had the representative from the photography place come and talk to our church council, and we've slated two weeks for the portrait taking. So it's understandable why this would be on my mind. Which might explain part of the reason why I dreamt about it last night. But, let me tell you the rest of the dream.

All of the planning and portrait taking was over, and the directories had come out. I was excited to see my picture in there, and so I looked in the front and saw my official pastor picture. As I flipped through to my picture amongst the other member photos, I was a little surprised that it wasn't there.

Eventually, I did end up finding it. Apparently, I didn't want to take my picture all alone so I had picked some random people (they might have been an actual family, I remember it was an adult male and female, and then a young boy and girl) to pose in my picture with me. We had these cheesy family picture poses and I was grinning like a maniac.

It wasn't in the right spot, because they had given me the wrong last name. Instead of my own, I had the last name of Noah and Laura, two adults who are active in our high school ministry, and so I was the picture right before their family portrait. I remember being flabbergasted that my last name could have been wrong in a pictorial directory for the church where I serve as one of their pastors.

But, also, I found it extremely amusing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

can i be honest for a second?

When you are in seminary, everything is so academic and theoretical. There is some practical stuff, but truthfully, it's hard to accurately portray and teach practical knowledge in the classroom. It's something that needs to be experienced, or practiced, and that's why it's practical.

So, when you go to teach Confirmation, and you find that most of your time is not spent dealing with the academic or the theoretical, but is instead focused on getting kids to focus and listening, and maneuvering people around, and trying to find ways to teach the information but also entertain a large group of junior high kids, and coping with young people with behavioral issues, and talking with small group leaders who have to put up with these kids and dealing with that fall out, and maintaining some sort of sanity and clarity of call can be tough when you're mucking through all of that.

Now don't get me wrong. I love these kids. There isn't one who I feel like I am incapable of sitting down and having a conversation with them. I know them by name, I can joke around with them, and more often than not I enjoy their presence. Even the ones with behavioral issues. But when you add all of this stuff together, in the span of one evening, it can be defeating. I mean, this is what I have felt called to do and this is most particularly where I feel my gifts lie. And so to have an evening turn out so disappointing can be a major blow to my ego and sense of call.

But then there is always something to balance out the bad. A conversation with one of the youth, or a 5th grader offering me a piece of his candy bar because he sees I need something, or the offer of a hug from an adult volunteer... These are things that make it worthwhile and remind me that even though one evening might not have gone as I planned and even though the craziness and unpredictability seemed to overshadow what I was hoping to accomplish, that I am doing something right. And that's helpful.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

he's following me

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of unfinished basements. There is something spooky or eerie or creepy about them. It used to be that I was afraid of them and hated to go down in them by myself. Now it's more of an unsettled feeling, but I can't avoid going in my basement because I'm the only one that lives here.

When I was on internship, there was this semi-basement/furnace room in the parsonage I lived in. It wasn't very big, probably just about big enough to put the furnace, water heater and then like a table or bed or something. But it was close enough to a basement to cause me to be unsettled.

And it didn't help that the water heater made some weird noises. They were noises that I compared to a man hitting things with a pipe. So that led me to create this story about some vagrant living in my furnace room and hitting and kicking things. I avoided going into that room as much as possible, and would "talk" to the person when I needed to go in the room. I'd offer him (or her) free access to the food in my pantry as long as they didn't harm me. I was weirded out a bit more when I saw that there happened to be a latch on top of the door, as if it were used to lock someone inside the room. I mentioned this to my supervising pastor and he laughed at me and said that the intern a couple years ago had small children, so it was used to keep people OUT of the room, not in.

Well, I think the furnace room person has followed me. I hear him downstairs kicking and hitting the furnace and water heater. Although I think he's a lot happier here, since he has an entire basement in which to spread out, and not just a small furnace room. I'm afraid that, at the moment, he might be a little disappointed in the lack of food in my pantry, and so I'm hoping that this doesn't cause him to go back on our deal and lash out at me in a hungry rage.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

so, there's a new one, then?

I led worship at the local nursing home today. It started off on a good note because we were moved into an actual room of our own today! The home has been under some construction, and so the past many, many months we've been shoved into one corner of this day room that is often quite full of other residents going about their business. One day, while I was in the middle of things, two aides came in pushing a car full of towels and proceeded to stock the shelves behind me. In the middle of worship! But, anyway, we were in a new room all by ourselves today in the newly remodeled section of the home. And this was nice.

When we lead worship, we bring this box to carry the wafers and wine for communion, as well as the binders for worship. These binders are large print and have the confession, Apostles' Creed and several hymns in them. Most of the hymns are old favorites, and so many of the residents don't even need the binders and they don't use them much.

One of the songs I like to sing quite often is "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." It's familiar, easy to sing, the people know it and like it, so it works out well for all of us. But when I lead it, I often have to suppress a giggle. You see, there's a line in the song that says, "Precious Savior, still our refuge..." Except there's a typo, and so instead it says "Previous Savior, still our refuge..."

Like I said, most of the people don't use the binders (though they're conditioned with their years of hymnal use and will still open to the correct pages) and so they don't notice the typo. But I follow along in the binder, just to make sure I get the right words, and so I see this typo every time.

And I can't help but wonder, if we have a Previous Savior, does that mean we have another one who is our Current Savior? And, if we do, then why is this Previous one still our refuge?

in case you couldn't tell... i'm joking.